Meadow-sweet. Spiraea Ulmaria)

Also see Hool, 1918: Meadowsweet.

Queen of the Meadows, or Meadow-sweet. It is one of the common plants indigenous to Great Britain and Ireland, but it grows in nearly all parts of Europe and in America. Meadowsweet is a wild plant found growing in ditches, around the sides of ponds, by roadsides, riversides, in woods, and in swampy places throughout Great Britain and Ireland.

The root is red, thick, and fibrous, and the stem is round and angular, erect, firm, pale green, but sometimes purple and striated. The leaves are each composed of about three pairs of small leaves, which are set on each side of the mid-rib, with the terminal one at the end. They are of a deep green on the upper side and whitish underneath. The flowers are small and white, but they stand so close together that the whole cluster seems to form one large flower; the seed stalks with the seeds on them are twisted in a spiral form.

Meadow-sweet belongs to a genus of the natural order Rosaceae and of the sub-order Spiraea. In the Linnean system it belongs to the twelfth class called Icosandria, and first order Monogynia (Mon meaning one, and Gynia woman), or one pistil in each flower of the same plant. The fruit consists of about five capsular carpels, or maybe one or two less, which are distinct from the calyx, and each containing from one to six seeds. The Genus Spiraea has one or more follicular many-seeded carpels; it contains a large number of species, natives of Europe, Asia, and America, all of which are herbaceous plants or low deciduous shrubs. Two of the herbaceous species are natives of Great Britain—namely, Spiraea Filipendula (Filipendula vulgaris. -Henriette.), or Common Dropwort, found in dry and upland pastures. It is a tonic and astringent; its roots are tubers, and very nutritious, and may be eaten the same as potatoes, or they may be ground into flour and baked into bread and eaten that way. The other species, which is a native of Great Britain, and the one we have to deal with, is our common Meadowsweet, or Queen of the Meadows, which may be found growing in places as stated above, and which is a most valuable medicinal plant. Its properties are three, namely, resin, alkaloid, and oleoresinoid. It is slightly stimulant, diuretic, astringent, tonic, anti-acid, anti-scorbutic, and febrifuge. It acts as a tonic when employed in cases of dyspepsia, dropsy, rheumatism, fevers, cramps, and all forms of bilious attacks, sour belchings, and stomach affections of every kind. Meadow-sweet, when made into a strong tea and a small cupful given every two or three hours, will be highly beneficial in all cases of fever, no matter of what kind, and in cases of dyspepsia caused through inflammation of the mucous surfaces and glands of the stomach. It will also be found not only to relieve, but eventually cure all cases of sour belchings, sour eructions, nausea, sickness and vomiting, water-brash, swellings after meals or vomiting before meals, bile, or bilious attacks, and is especially useful if it is combined with Wood Betony, Agrimony, Raspberry leaves, and Great Burnett in equal parts, and made into a tea and taken either at or before meals. (I may say here this tea may be taken in any quantity, from a small teacupful to one pint, three, four, or even five times during day or night, by either young or old, and wherever it is employed in any or all of the above-mentioned diseases it will be found to give immediate relief.) When used either alone or combined with others, as stated above, its sanative and cleansing influence is felt immediately the tea is swallowed.

Being an anti-acid, it allays and corrects the acids accumulating in the stomach far better than carbonate or bicarbonate of soda, magnesia, cream of tartar, tartaric acid, saleratus, and bicarbonate of potass. Meadow-sweet not only allays the symptoms, but prevents the recurrence.

While its soothing influence is felt on the pneumogastric and sympathetic nerves, the stimulating effects are brought to bear upon the mucous membrane and gastric glands of the stomach, allaying the inflammation which causes the above symptoms, and by that means causing better action of the gastric glands by making them secrete better gastric juice, and by its astringent powers tones up and brings back all the muscular parts of the stomach to their normal condition.

The value of Meadow-sweet in the treatment of gravelly affections depends more upon its alterative than upon its direct diuretic influences, as it is more effectual in the removal of uric acid deposits than of other calculous formations, although it is beneficially employed in almost all affections of the kidneys and bladder. Meadow-sweet, if used for treatment of Rheumatism, will also be found very highly beneficial either in the acute or chronic form, as well as in all cases of rheumatic fever, either of long or short duration, and which may have been caused by hepatic or liver derangements or from exposure to cold or wet, or from damp clothes, starvation, or general derangement of the whole of the digestive organs, causing an overcharge and excessive retention of uric acid in the muscles and joints. Thus Meadow-sweet, by its stimulating properties, first removes the cold and surfeit if taken in large quantities—say one gill or half-pint of tea or decoction made strong, every two or three hours—producing perspiration. At the same time, by means of its anti-acid and astringent properties, it removes the uric-acid deposits from the blood, muscles, and joints; expels the waste, morbid, and diseased particles of matter from the body, and by that process removes the inflammation and pains of the parts affected. It drives away the fever; restores the action of the liver, kidneys, and bladder; renews and tones up the powers of all the digestive organs by bringing them back to their normal condition; restores the appetite; strengthens the nerves and muscles, and when that is done the patient is restored to health and strength.

Meadow-sweet, when used as stated above, will be found not only to cure, but wherever there is a predisposition to rheumatism, it will act as a preventative.

Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H., in 1922.